Here I am at my mom’s house. I’ve been doing laundry all day. Laundry and holding the baby and watching my nieces practice their “routines” to the Numa Numa song (that makes your mind go “numa numa” after a while). I’ve also tried to clean up a little bit of my mom’s house but it just ends up making me mad. I almost threw her big brown kitchen trash can across the floor today because I couldn’t get the bag out for all the mops and brooms and buckets of trash and pop cans and laundry that was in my way. I was so frustrated. I love coming out to the sticks to visit all my relatives but once I’m here, I go crazy just trying to walk from one side of the house to the other. Don’t even ask me about trying to find a pair of scissors.
I love my family I really do and I know I’m going to regret venting about them again… but man oh man does the mess drive me batty. I think to myself: I’ll just put one thing away at a time and eventually I’ll make a dent. But I never make a dent. I throw away trash, I do loads of laundry, I wash dishes sometimes… I put things away, I give my mom unsolicited advice about how she can be more organized… it doesn’t matter. It is like yelling into the wind.
My mom says it is mostly my brother and his family that bring all the mess into her house and I have to admit she’s 80% right. My brother is a self proclaimed slob. The other 20% is that my mom is getting older and she gets tired easily. She’d rather sit at her computer and play solitaire than load the dishwasher or clean up a cat hair ball. I don’t blame her really. You get exhausted just looking at it all. It really is overwhelming. But it’s not like starting over from scratch with a clean slate would really change anything.
It’s been like this for as long as I can remember and we’ve moved and started fresh dozens of times. I even remember a few times when friends and relatives came in stealthily while we were on vacation and cleaned the house from top to bottom. It lasted about a week. All I remember is complaining that we couldn’t find anything.
There is always some reason or excuse for the mess. The house is too small, the jobs are too demanding, everybody is exhausted, the kids are lazy and don’t help out… the excuses go on and on… but I really think it’s just too much a part of who we are and maybe that’s why it bothers me so much. It’s a part of me that I’m trying to excavate like a painful ingrown toenail. I’m too close to it. I hate it because it is me. It represents everything I come from in a bitter-sweet package.
Today my brother and sister-in-law came over and the next thing I knew the dining room table was covered with the makings of bean dip and wrapping paper and seventeen little packets of ranch dressing from Carl’s Jr. It’s craziness I tell you. You can’t look at one square inch of my mom’s house without finding the left-behinds of fifty half finished “projects”. But I had no idea my brother invented his own special recipe for bean dip and it’s actually quite tasty and unique. How cool is it that my mechanic brother who never cooks or lifts a finger to help out around the house, can make a giant pot of bean dip for a pot luck party they are going to this evening? I think it’s downright adorable.
My sister-in-law also brought over a batch of fudge and brownies. I love chocolate. I can’t complain about that. She also taught her daughter Rapunzel how to make a pudding pie. It’s so sweet to watch her teach Rapunzel the basics of measuring and reading directions. Is it really that important that she also teaches her how to clean up after herself? How can I get upset about the sticky blobs of tomato sauce and pudding powder when valuable mom-daughter lessons are going down? Why am I so uptight about messiness?
Sometimes I wonder if you have to choose whether to have orderliness or happiness in life. Both never seem to come together. My house might be neat and somewhat clean but it can also be sad and lonely. We don’t have dinner parties or movie nights with popcorn and hot fudge sundaes. We don’t have giant birthday parties with carnival games or pretend beauty salon sessions with finger-nail painting and lotion foot massages. At my house it’s all about being quiet and not having too much junk. I’m constantly stressing about trying to get the dishes done before the baby wakes up or keeping the never-ending collection of plastic grocery sacks under control. I work from morning to night cleaning cat boxes, sweeping up hair from the bathroom floor and trying to keep the credit card junk mail shredded in a timely manner. I cook and clean and barely take a moment to write an email or call someone up on the phone.
Is it possible to do it all and will I ever figure it out?